Max Bell repudiates this post’s title from any connotations of J. Lo or Ja Rule
Only Real’s (Niall Galvin) Facebook bio reads, simply: “REP REAL.” His Soundcloud bio reads: “TWIST IT UP AND REP REAL.” That’s all caps. Twice. In other words, Only Real doesn’t fuck with small things, font included. And despite the fact that his genre of music is described as “baby music for babies,” I don’t think my neighbors toddlers would be torn away from Yo Gabba Gabba! upon hearing Real’s music. Really, though I’m dating myself here, it’s music for ’90s babies.
His Tumblr includes pictures of such ’90s Nickelodeon shows like Rugrats and Rocket Power next to pictures of the Calypso Pioneers 1912 – 1937 compilation album. And AZ’s classic “Your World Don’t Stop” is next to a cut from New Zealand late ’80s/’90s noise rock outfit Baitler Space (formerly The Gordons)—Only Real is a product of the ’90s. The overexposure to media and the unchecked access to the Internet is evident. The idiosyncrasies are prominent. And the music is all the better.
So, right. Enough stanning. Let’s talk about the music.
I came across “Cadillac Girl” (below the jump) while doing my daily surf the other day. The track has nothing to do with Outkast or Freddie Gibbs and yet, it’s my new favorite song. Sorry Kendrick. Like all of the tracks I’ve heard from Only Real thus far, its equal parts The xx, Galaxie 500, and stock indie-rap, if the last one is a thing anymore or ever was.
It is intimate without feeling forced and it’s sonically emotive without feeling fake. It is, for lack of a better word, real. Now, as far as I can tell, there is a cadillac girl who is very very “bold” with Only Real. But really, that’s about it. For me, the lyrics aren’t all that important. And if I heard every one, they would probably mean a lot less. As it stands, Only Real’s vocals are buried under feedback and smooth and melodic plucking. Call it drum pads and Bon Iver syndrome run amuck.
Now, let’s look at his other tracks. “Cinnamon Toast” might be an ode to my all time favorite breakfast cereal or some UK slang for a sweet new glock I know nothing about. Either way, it’s solid. The video isn’t anything otherworldly, but I do dig Only Real destroying his own name vis a vis a wooden board with his name spray-painted on it.
“New Gold” is a little bit more atmospheric or something, with less vocals and more solid production from this one man band—as far as I know, he does this all on the solo tip from his bedroom. And “The Drivethrough” essentially serves as his radio single. It’s a little more pop than I care for, but the rhythm is on point and it’s better than everything you’ll hear from Adam Levine’s ass.
The torrent of King Krule comparisons will rain down. And maybe there is a ton of music like this coming out of the UK that I’m not hip to. But I’m fine being the ignorant Yank if this is the music I stumble upon every few months. For me, Only Real is more interesting than nearly every 21 and under rapper I’ve heard in the last year (Sorry Joey) and he’s definitely more interesting than every other pigment challenged ginger MC (cough Aaron Cohen cough) that’s been forced upon me in the last few years.
Will Only Real keep it real for future tracks/projects or switch up his style and get lost in the ether? Maybe. Hard to tell these days. For now, TWIST IT UP AND REP REAL.
MP3: Only Real – The Drivethrough